By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County officials announced Wednesday an agreement with a Southern California renewable energy company to provide clean power for seven county buildings, part of a push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tap greener electricity sources for county operations.
The one-year deal with 3 Phases Renewables of Manhattan Beach is also expected to provide the county with cheaper power and result in annual savings of $2,000 for taxpayers, officials said.
The agreement, which the county has an option to extend, will supply about 2,800 megawatt-hours of wind and biomass-generated electricity annually, or about the same amount of power used by 170 homes in a year.
Already, most of the county administrative campus, including 14 buildings, gets power from a county-run $9.8 million, 1.4 megawatt natural gas fuel cell that began operating in late 2010.
The new deal puts the majority of county operations either off-grid or on renewable sources. “Sonoma County continues its leadership in energy sustainability and fiscal responsibility,” Shirlee Zane, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors, said in a statement touting the deal.
The seven buildings tapping into the new power supply include the North County Detention Facility — an offshoot of the main jail located near the county airport, the Sonoma County Animal Shelter, a mental health facility off Chanate Road and four offices in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. The buildings currently get their power from PG&E.
The switch makes use of a 2009 state law that allows commercial power customers to request direct purchase agreements with energy providers other than their utility.
3 Phases Renewables purchases its power on the wholesale market. The portfolio mix included in the county deal includes about 85 percent wind energy and 15 percent biomass.
The move adds to a 2006 initiative to cut county government emissions and slash regionwide greenhouse gas production to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015.
About 1.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide, equivalent to about 2 million vehicle miles, could be cut from the county’s annual greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the switch, said Sam Ruark, the county’s Energy Watch program manager.
A study of a separate county move — a bid to form a public power agency, another part of the green-energy push — is due back to the Board of Supervisors in April or May, officials said.